Archive

  • At Long Last Sir -- Have You No Zingers?

    A few days ago I flagged an American Prospect article by Geoffrey Nunberg for its excellent description of the ideologically conservative/operatively liberal divide. Now I want to highlight a different part: Republicans will try to pin a big-government label on the Democrats, but the appropriate response to that is not to apologize for government, as some liberals have recently done, but rather to call the Republicans' bluff. Kerry just once might have responded to Bush's charge that he was a big-government liberal not just by denying that his health-care plan was a government takeover but by bearding Bush on his government-bashing. "Just which government programs are too big?" he might have said. "What should we do away with? Social Security? Medicare? The Food and Drug Administration? The Securities and Exchange Commission? The Environmental Protection Agency?" This sort of thing is genuinely confusing to me. Why aren't debates filled with more lines like this? After all, it wasn't...
  • Morgan Stanley and BP are Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Investments

    This trend of companies publicly articulating policies to pull all ads from any publication that publishes negative pieces on them is really quite scary. Fact is, we don't have a free press, we have a press that relies on the goodwill and involvement of advertisers. So long as they're dependent on an income source that wants to influence they're coverage, they're not free in any recognizable sense of the word. That said, they've generally been able to keep their advertising departments separate from their editorial sections, and their sponsors have accepted it. Apparently, the advertisers are changing their minds on that front, and if the trend continues, I'm not sure how much of the publishing industry will survive. Maybe future newspapers really will be online-only for the sole reason that the dirt-cheap production costs allow them to survive with radically reduced revenue streams. Ah well. As Matt said the other day, I trust we can expect a flurry of bad press for Morgan Stanley...
  • The Impossible Has Happened

    I've found an HSA plan I like: Oshkosh Truck Corp. (OSK ), for example, has veered away from the old -- and costly -- health maintenance organization it used for its 4,500 nonunion employees. The plan's low copayments encouraged doctor visits and contributed to the double-digit annual growth in Oshkosh's health-care bill. So in January, 2004, the company switched to what's known as a consumer-driven plan. Under the new plan, annual physicals and other preventive tests such as mammograms and prostate cancer screenings are fully covered. After that, workers and their families receive a $1,000 annual health-care account. Any unspent portion can be rolled into the following year. But once that account is tapped out, workers are responsible for the next $1,500 of medical expenses. If expenses go beyond that, the company steps back in and will pick up 90% of expenses. Oshkosh is betting that the gap will discourage wasteful spending while still ensuring workers are covered for serious...
  • Health Care Schwag

    Matt's got a nice post on how health insurers screw the young and why that makes mandated private insurance (a la The New America Foundation, The Century Foundation, and John Breaux) something of a mess. Fun stuff. But hey, here's a sidebar: While explaining his grand plan to attract young, healthy folk and weed out the ill and elderly, Matt mentions the utility of health schwag: free gym memberships, softball teams, that sorta thing. Those, actually, are great ideas. Not just for cherry-picked plans trying to attract young people, but for everyone. If health insurance came with a free fitness center membership and offered incentives for gym attendance, it'd be one of the most cost-effective ways of controlling insurer-side health spending on record. First, nothing works as well as exercise and weight control to keep folks healthy and avoid disease. Nothing. Similarly, nothing is cheaper. The problem is exercise and diet require commitment, time, unpleasant hours on the treadmill, and...
  • Best. Filibuster Post. Ever.

    August is so on fire lately it's absurd. Read .
  • Tom Gone Wild

    Timothy Noah catches Tom Friedman being inconsistent. Really inconsistent. But Tom's I-voted-against-it-before-I-voted-for-it approach to subscription fees really isn't the top attention-grabber in the quotes Noah flags. Rather, take a look at the guy's thinking. Not only does it veer wildly from principle to self-interest, but it's all intuition, all hunches, all unsupported. He doesn't offer arguments or try and reconcile his contradictions, he just kinda...speaks. How did this guy get famous?
  • Chafee

    Last week's New Republic features a Michael Crowley profile on Lincoln Chafee that, in its weird way, continues to convince me that NARAL is gaming this out: Exasperated as they are, however, Republicans are now riding to Chafee’s rescue as he faces possible challenges from both his left and right. Conservatives are urging Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, a hard-edged populist, to mount a primary challenge. (One Republican said to be egging on Laffey is Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe,who would like to be rid of Chafee’s dissident vote on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which Inhofe chairs.) Laffey would be a tough foe:Rhode Island may be liberal, but its Republican primary voters are very conservative; internal polling by both parties shows Laffey trouncing Chafee. But the Republican establishment, convinced that only a moderate like Chafee can survive in liberal Rhode Island, is trying to keep Laffey out of the race. National GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman has called Laffey...
  • More on the Deal

    Having had more time to think through and read over the deal, I'm still pretty happy with it. But I do want to go over a few things in detail. The really crucial portion is the "future" section, where each senator is given personal discretion to decide what constitutes "extraordinary circumstances". One read of that makes filibusters easy, it's up to the Democrat. Another read means Republicans can attack it, it's up to them. But here's the thing: there's no trap door in it, no clause that says a filibuster under "ordinary circumstances" will trigger another vote. More important, that clause is followed by: "In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules change in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or rule XXII." On the face of it, that's the battle right there, it looks...
  • Done Deal

    Crisis averted. Seven Republicans and Seven Democrats brokered a deal (short PDF) averting the nuclear option. Three of the president's nominees will go to the floor (Brown, Owens, Pryor), two won't (Myers, Saad). The filibuster is not blocked in future cases and all parties pledge to vote against attempts to end it for the duration of the 109th Congress. Jeff Dubner is unhappy, but I don't really see why. The deal, crucially, says "In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules change in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or rule XXII." With these seven promising to vote against any more attempts to end the filibuster for the duration of this Congress, it seems like we got what we wanted -- the preservation of the filibuster for the Supreme Court nominee. It seems, too,...
  • HSA's on the March

    This LA Times article on the rise of Health Savings Accounts in employer-offered health plans is the most important piece you'll read this week. Corporations, tired of paying out the nose for health care, are pushing the cost onto employees. Employees, sick to death of huge premiums, are taking them up on it. The catch? HSA's look cheap upfront, but when you actually start going to the doctor or having health problems, the cost makes your premiums look meager. The sick, of course, know that they can't afford HSA's. So only the healthy use them. But subtracting the well-off from the risk pool and leaving only the chronically ill shoots premiums ever-higher, making health care prohibitively expensive for both the ill and the old. This means that HSA's are not, as a health care consultant in the article admits, a cost control. Instead, they're a cost shifting device. Employers are trying to escape the bills for health insurance and so they're enticing workers into programs where upfront...

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